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Couta (King Mackerel)

Updated on February 24, 2006

King mackerel are commonly called Couta. They are large fish with an elongated body, grey-blue on top and silvery sides. They have a white belly and distinctive keels at the base of the tail. The animal's sides are marked with many irregular vertical bars. Couta have very sharp teeth.

This is one of the most important recreational game fish on the Kwazulu-Natal coast targeted by skiboat, spear, rock and surf anglers. In 1989 Couta comprised 68% of sport angler's catch, 53% of spear fishermen's catch and 12% of the commercial catch. The most common size caught is 85cm. At this size the fish have not yet matured.

A warm water species they are found very rarely past Mossel Bay but one or two accounts have been recorded of fish in False Bay, when unusual warm waters pushed further down the coast. Heading north however they are found all along our coastline, especially of the KZN coastline into Mozambique. 

Couta Trace

what the end product should look like

Couta Trace: No 5 swivel, a 700mm leader ( number 6 wire) onto a single or bait swimmer.Then a treble (size or your choice) from the single as indicated. The trace below is an adjustable trace with the 2nd hook attached to the first. The intermediate wire configuration is between no 6-8 wire. For a non adjustable trace the 2nd hook will come direct from the single again.


Under the Marine Living Resources Act the species is categorised as an exploitable species

There is no size limit

Commercial and semi-commercial fishermen have no bag limit

Recreational anglers and spear fishermen are allowed 10 per person per day

The illegal sale of this fish by sport anglers is damaging the stock.


They feed in anchovies, mackerel, sardines and shad, mantis shrimps and prawns. Couta are free swimming, pelagic fish that normally congregate in shoals. However, larger individuals do hunt alone.


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